John Whitgift Foundation
The John Whitgift Foundation, a major education and care charity serving Croydon and the local area wanted to use its 425th anniversary as a catalyst to deepen its connections within the area and help improve well-being and community cohesion following the isolation felt by many through the Covid19 restrictions.
We identified and harnessed the tangible mental and physical benefits of gardening and growing to create ‘Grow With John’ – an initiative that aimed to connect local people, care homes and schools together across the community through the joy of growing plants together.
To increase the initiative’s impact, we secured support from the Royal Horticultural Society to implement the programme and also secured endorsement from Sir Alan Titchmarsh to promote Grow With John and help increase participation.
The Grow With John website increased participation, enabling people to sign up, request seed packets, growing guides or join local growing groups. An animated John Whitgift helped younger growers plant their first seeds, while local green fingered gardeners were recurited to be 'growing heroes’ providing advice from their balconies, gardens and allotments.
Our PR campaign launched the initiative securing coverage across the national and local media. As a result, two thousand people across Croydon got in touch in just three days requesting seeds and growing advice. In total four thousand seed packets and growing leaflets were distributed to households and community groups across the borough. Nine care homes took part, and 1,975 children took home plants for the summer holidays.
Grow With John won praise from schools, care homes and community leaders for helping bring people together, build confidence and help people connect again following the Pandemic.
Alana Cama, Schools and Groups Programme Manager, Royal Horticultural Society, said: “Growing plants with others is hugely beneficial for our wellbeing and mental health and Grow with John enriched the lives of so many people in Croydon. It was a timely initiative when loneliness and social isolation was an all-time high following the pandemic.”
Alan Titchmarsh MBE, said: “The 'Grow with John' project was a brilliant idea and one which I hope other schools and communities will learn from.”
Angela Tolley, Activities co-ordinator, The Whitgift House care home. “Grow With John has an incredibly positive impact on our residents’ wellbeing and has inspired us to increase the number of green and growing activities we offer to residents”.
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